woman at laptop brainstorming
Operational challenges in times of a pandemic are just one thing to address in a business plan. — Getty Images/Thurtell

A comprehensive business plan is not only a crucial part of starting any business venture, but a vital tool in maintaining a successful trajectory for your company. For an entrepreneur, a business plan is a key tool for attracting investors, but its usefulness doesn't end there. This is a document you'll have to refine and continually adjust with the times.

In the face of COVID-19, even the most stable of business plans will need tweaking. When it comes to market analysis, marketing and financial projections, it's essential to reset and reevaluate. Here's how to tackle writing a business plan during a global pandemic.

What does COVID-19 mean for your business plan?

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of uncertainty affecting the market and consumer behavior. Before you make any significant changes to your business plan, take a moment to let the dust settle and be sure to do your research.

According to a recent study published by McKinsey, no event since World War II has caused an economic downturn of this magnitude. Nevertheless, the study examined how the country has responded to previous global crises, like the Great Recession and the Great Depression. Three themes emerged as successful solutions:

  1. Prioritize people.
  2. Understand existing trends.
  3. Create adaptive, long-term solutions.

Although these recommendations are primarily aimed at federal government policies, they are also applicable to your business. Use these guidelines as you approach writing or updating your business plan in the face of the unknown.

How to write a new business plan

If you're creating your first business plan for discerning investors, there are a few points you'll need to consider. The key elements of your pitch will remain the same, but you'll need to account for the immediate financial triage. Don't shy away from the current state of the world;face it head-on by providing solutions and ideas to tackle it.

[Read more: How to Create a Recession-Proof Business Plan]

Analyze the market

Every business plan should include detailed market analysis. Pre-pandemic, this may have been relatively straightforward, but now it's a little more complicated. Include facts and figures from your competitors and incorporate innovations to showcase your adaptability in a time of crisis.

Update your marketing plan

More and more people are shopping online and browsing social media than ever before. Define your challenges when it comes to marketing touchpoints, clarify your options and identify the best avenues for success. Include a detailed plan of how you see this adjusting post-pandemic, building out scenarios specific to your business.

You'll have to refocus, find plausible scenarios and pick your battles.

Face your operational challenges

Plan for the four phases of a crisis, including how your business and its workforce will withstand the cyclical nature of economic upheaval. Account for the immediate adjustments you've incorporated and the impact the virus may have on your employees. Outline your plan to navigate the new normal, embracing some of the changes and opportunities this revised business landscape offers.

Forecast realistically

Potential investors are looking for credible predictions and forecasts for your business. Do your homework and present numbers indicative of the current state of the economy. Be sure to include financial models for the future, utilizing lessons learned in the past.

[Read more: 5 Business Plan Templates To Help You Plan For Success]

How to adjust an existing business plan

Adjusting an existing business plan during a pandemic requires a similar approach to starting from scratch. You'll also need to reanalyze the market, adjust your marketing plans accordingly, improve operations and rework your financial forecasts. On top of that, you'll need to modify, if not redo, your entire strategy for the year. Where do you start?

Define your challenges

In the early stages of COVID-19, it was tempting to focus on firefighting rather than reworking entire strategies. However, you need to identify both the quick wins and the long-term plays for your brand to stay nimble in a dying market. Clearly define the short-term and long-term challenges you're facing and how they affect your product and your team, and make the relevant amendments to your plan.

Make big decisions

While editing your existing business plan is one thing, making decisions and taking action are crucial to adaptability. Meet with relevant employees, either remotely or face-to-face, and be deliberate with your conclusions. You'll have to refocus, find plausible scenarios and pick your battles. As difficult as it may be, this will include putting a stop to plans or products that no longer make sense.

Be agile

Make use of the resources available to you. Incorporate the new and improved workplace safety measures recommended by the World Health Organization, embrace remote working, account for workforce flexibility and lean on your network.

More often than not, crises bring collaboration, so communicate with other businesses sharing insights and learning. Think out of the box and respond to your customers' new needs.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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